The High Court of Andhra Pradesh reiterated the order of the Apex court and said that deferring time barring under all statutes is applicable to all citizens, tribunals, and courts including quasi-judicial authorities, so no ex-parte orders can be passed during a pandemic.
The petitioner which is an industry, based at Pune was asked to appear before respondent Authority at another state, drew the attention of the Court to a series of letters that were addressed to the respondent, requesting for exemption from personal hearing, because of the prevalent pandemic situation.
The petitioner also submitted a detailed reply also, they had no opportunity to coordinate with their offices, which were situated in other States, and because of the prevalent pandemic COVID-19, they could not file a reply.
It was pointed out that all the requests for adjournment were refused and that the impugned order and the penalty order were also passed by the respondent authority without hearing the petitioner.
The division bench of Justice D.V.S.S. Somayajulu and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti noticed that all the requests for an adjournment from personal appearance etc. were made on the ground that because of the prevalent pandemic situation, namely COVID-19, the petitioner could not file a detailed reply nor appear in person before the respondent.
The court while allowing the writ petition, held that there is a failure of the rules of natural justice which entail a ‘fair’ hearing.
“This Court also notices that the respondent has also noticed the orders passed by the Supreme Court of India in the ‘taken up’ matters by which limitation was extended for all matters, including limitation prescribed in the Statutes. Respondent for his own reasons has disagreed with the order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India,” the order said.
The High Court allowed the writ petition by keeping forth a few directions that immediately after the pandemic situation eases and the restrictions are lifted on the movement of men and material etc., respondent authority is directed to issue a notice to the petitioner giving him two weeks time to appear along with his reply and all his documents.
The court also directed the petitioner to use the interim period to prepare his counter and also his objections to the extent possible.Subscribe Taxscan AdFree to view the Judgment